Pokémon Go players need to stop and look

5 September 2016
Gotta catch 'em all. Pokémon Go players are becoming safety hazards. Credit: Alice Williams
Gotta catch 'em all. Pokémon Go players are becoming safety hazards. Credit: Alice Williams

Pokémon Go has become a global phenomenon since it was first released on early July, but is it for the better or worse?

The mixed reality product marries nostalgia for the original 1990s Nintendo Pokémon video game with locative mobile technology, and is the first mobile location and mixed reality product to become globally popular. 

Since its release on July 6  in 37  countries, the virtual reality game has gathered more than 100 million downloads and it has collected over US$160 billion in net revenue, according to Urban Wire.

Players, also known in the Pokémon world as trainers, catch virtual mythical creatures via the iPhone and android-friendly application by walking through neighbourhoods and visiting local landmarks. 

But the game has attracted controversy for becoming a public nuisance and contributing to accidents in many countries.

Pokémon Go events and gatherings have become "a thing" around the world, where people join together to explore outside to catch Pokémon creatures and "level up". 

The sight of individuals, friends and families walking around with their heads bent intently towards their mobile phones is increasingly common.

Karen McDonald, an active Pokémon Go player, finds it a playful way to bring the virtual and real worlds together. 

"It’s a game that motivates people to get out of the house, take a walk and exercise as they play the game," said  McDonald.

"It also helps those who are coping with anxiety and depression to go outside and mingle with fellow players in your community."

But the level of distraction among players has its negatives.

There have been reports of crimes and accidents related to the mobile game. These events have involved accidents with cars and pedestrians as well as privacy concerns and robberies. 

BBC News, The Atlantic Newspaper and the Tokyo Reporter have reported several unfortunate incidents involving the mobile game app. 

In Florida, two players were shot by a homeowner who mistook them for burglars. Elsewhere in Missouri, some players were robbed when the game led them to secluded areas and in Tokyo, there has been an outbreak of traffic accidents.

While in Australia, the ABC News and SBS News have also reported that two men were left on an Adelaide beach with serious head wounds and injuries after being robbed whilst playing Pokémon Go. 

Coffs Harbour businessman and former Pokémon Go Player, Robert Wilson agrees the game creates an unsafe environment in busy local areas.

"I have played the game myself and have had a few close encounters to danger," he said.

Wilson said there were other negatives to playing Pokémon Go.  

“Exercising and going outside is suppose to be energizing and calm, but when you have your phone in front of your face and aren’t really taking in the atmosphere, you lose those simple natural benefits,” he said. 

Despite the negatives, there is also arguable some positivity with playing Pokémon Go. 

The game brings people together to discuss, battle and play against or with one another. 

In Pokémon Go, the real world is the game and it is right in front of you.